Bureau pledges to help expat drivers


IN a David and Goliath-type case, an expatriate advice bureau is threatening to take the Spanish Government to court over a driving licence debacle.

As confusion reigns over whether or not EU citizens have to change their driving licences for a Spanish one, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Spain has vowed to pursue the Spanish traffic authority through the courts.

As reported in the Euro Weekly News (EWN), the Spanish traffic department (DGT) has said that people holding the old style UK paper licence with an expiration date of more than 15 years must change it after being resident in the country for two years.

Crucially, though, holders of the new style plastic photo card licence, valid for a total period of 10 years, do not have to change theirs until the date runs out. This may not be the case if the DGT protocol is followed as some of these licences may include specific categories.

However, the problem is the department has been giving out contradictory advice, with reports of some expats having been fined for non-compliance. The DGT has been using an option in the EU directive that has never been made law, so insisted that people changed their photo card licences before January 19, 2015. This included photo card licences with categories in Group Two (BTP, C1, C1E, C, DE D1, DE). This would be all UK licences issued before 1997, says CAB Spain.

Set up by Myra Azzopardi Swainson, the bureau has now vowed to help any expat drivers who have been fined for not holding a Spanish EU licence.

“The protocol is not enforceable because it is only an option of the EU directive and cannot be brought into being without being made law and transposed into the Spanish ‘normativa’,” said Myra.

“Spain has used the EU directive option to demand that all expats change their licences, but there is no law in place that requires them to do so, and therefore they shouldn’t be fined. It’s a mistake, it’s not enforceable and we have written to the DGT asking them to amend what they’re saying and to clarify what ‘normativa’ is being used to implement this demand. 

“We are willing to pursue this through the courts if there is no amendment from the DGT.”

Myra added that CAB Spain has one solid case of a person being fined for breaching the DGT regulation, and that the organisation will fight for anybody else fined by bringing the matter to the courts. 

“We are confident that drivers cannot be fined if they haven’t changed their photo card licence, but our advice is for people to make their own decisions as to whether or not to change their licence. Until the DGT makes an amendment it still stands that a person can be fined, even though it’s not the law.”

When contacted by the EWN, the DGT central helpline confirmed that only the old style paper licences valid until the age of 70 should be changed. 

CAB Spain has urged anyone who has been fined under the directive to contact them on 952 797 821. Their website is www.citizensadvice.org.es

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    • John

      19 February 2015 • 14:29

      I think you have lost the plot a bit Andy, Spain is trying to force competent drivers to change their licence when it is perfectly legal to drive with anywhere in the E U. The UK paper licence I can understand the need to change that. Many years ago the EU directive was to have a photo credit card size licence so that any police forces in different EU countries could read the licence and view the drivers foto.
      These are legal all over Europe until the foto date runs out then you renew in the country of residence with a new foto.
      Bringing the accident story in is terrible, the lad had had training and had past the required test, and could of happened to a guy with 50 years experience.

    • Myra Cecilia

      19 February 2015 • 16:29

      Andy. I am not sure what you are disagreeing with. The CAB Spain stance is to follow the law. Nowhere have we entered into the safety aspects of the categories described. The issue is relating to law and law alone. Not up to us to decide on whether an expat driver is capable of driving a vehicle of a category on his or her licence. We are the first to agree that laws must be abided by, that is by the motorists and the DGT alike. A department such as the ministry of the interior in Spain should know better and should be aware of the laws and not leave it up to CAB Spain to note their grave errors. (28 representatives from all the EU countries attend the launch of this protocol and no comment from any embassy or consulate). The laws are not only in relation to driving licences but can relate to residency, healthcare etc. A government body or entity cannot just take the law and use them at a whim as has been done here with the DGT, making legal demands when these are not as yet transposed in the law of the land. No doubt the relevant department, now aware that the faux pas has been noted, will ask the government to debate and approve the options provided in the EU directive, then and only them can the demands be put to the expat community as a regulations. The protocol is illegal therefore not enforceable.

    • Len Ridgway

      19 February 2015 • 18:21

      I agree Andy you seem to have veered totally from the point the CAB is raising, which is its a DGT directive that is not backed up in law. The point being is our UK licenses are in fact EU licenses which states that we can drive without having to obtain special ones in EU countries. Myra is right in what she is saying it needs clarifying. The only point I can see also that needs clarifying is to know is it law that after being resident for 2 years you have to change you license to a Spanish one ?.

    • Richard

      19 February 2015 • 19:31

      We did our Spanish medicals a couple of weeks ago Andy and we were asked if we’d like to keep all of our categories, therefore changing our licences will not make the slightest difference to the current stuation. We will have the same groups but will have probably needlessly spent quite a lot of money.

    • Richelle de Wit

      20 February 2015 • 10:48

      I´m sorry Andy, but your comment is full of inaccuracies. When you register here as resident, you do not have to take any action to make your licence valid to drive in Spain. All the actions you mention are obligatory, but upon renewal of your licence only, when it expires naturally, or when you´ve been a resident for 2 years and need to renew because you still hold the paper-only licence. And the validity periods of Spanish licences are conform the EU validity periods, so those you quote are not correct, I´m afraid.

    • Patrick F Williams

      21 February 2015 • 12:16

      If you are resident in Spain and you no address in u.k you are illegally driving anyway As many Ex Pats do any way if you want to be safe stay within the law. I know of one brit who didn’t and had to pay dearly.

    • Myra Cecilia

      21 February 2015 • 16:32

      Not illegal at all to have a UK address on your EU licence in Spain,

    • Rob

      23 February 2015 • 22:28

      It is if you don’t live at that address anymore

    • Rob

      23 February 2015 • 22:29

      It is illegal if you don’t live at that address anymore in the uk and you live in Spain

    • Tim

      24 February 2015 • 11:31

      Actually Rob it’s not illegal. Please do some research before scaring people unnecessarily.

    • Rob

      25 February 2015 • 15:14

      So all the drivers who has changed to Spanish license or been fined by the police can get the money back of the government


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